Friday's Afternoon Update
What you need to know about Florida today
Tourist visits in Florida plunge by 32% but show improvement from spring
The state’s tourism industry saw a nearly 32% drop in visitors during the third quarter compared with the same period last year, according to numbers released Thursday by Visit Florida. The estimate of 22.112 million travelers from the start of July to the end of September is significantly below what the state needs from the vital revenue-generating industry, which helps fund the state budget and produces up to 1.5 million jobs. The third-quarter figure was a noticeable upgrade from the 60.5% drop in tourism experienced in April, May and June. More from the News Service of Florida.
With a budget $5.4 billion in the red, Florida lawmakers have tough choices to make
Here’s a number for you: $5.4 billion. That’s the estimated size of the budget hole lawmakers will face early next year, as they struggle to balance a budget ravaged by COVID-19 and the state’s economic shutdown. Tough decisions lie ahead, and some inarguable priorities will take hard hits. “There will be things that we did in times of plenty that need to be eliminated in these times of lean,” newly elevated Senate President Wilton Simpson warned, and those words will be manifested time and again, with many of the hardest decisions hurting Floridians already made vulnerable by economic shutdowns, job losses and quarantines. More from the Daytona Beach News Journal.
Energy efficiency jobs plummet by more than 18K in Florida during pandemic
A new report shows energy efficiency jobs were growing locally and nationwide when the coronavirus pandemic hit, before declining during the ensuing economic crisis, but the industry is struggling to recover as quickly as the rest of the economy. The 2020 Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report, prepared by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) and the E4TheFuture, with data collected and analyzed by BW Research Partnership, shows that as of Oct. 2020, nearly 322,000 energy efficiency jobs have been lost (a 13.5% decline) since the pandemic struck, including more than 18,000 in Florida alone (down 14.7%). More from WJCT.
Music lineup off the menu for Strawberry Festival
The Florida Strawberry Festival will return to Plant City this spring, but it won’t have the stellar music lineup that has become its signature feature. Festival President Paul Davis posted a message on its Facebook page that after meeting with the Hillsborough County Health Department and other local and state officials, they decided to forego headline entertainment, which earlier this year included sold-out shows by Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire. More from the Tampa Bay Times.
Cleaning contamination from Lot J could take up to three years
Jacksonville city officials expect it will take nearly three years at least to perform the environmental clean up necessary for Jaguars owner Shad Khan to begin construction on his proposed Lot J development, meaning the project could take at least seven years to complete. That timeline, which was revealed in correspondence between Mayor Lenny Curry's office and the Jacksonville City Council Auditor's office, is more than twice as long as the timeline that has been publicly discussed. More from the Florida Times-Union.
Patrick Air Force Base named a finalist for Space Force headquarters
Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County is one of six finalists to be the home of the U.S. Space Command headquarters. The Air Force initially announced six other finalists in 2019, and Florida wasn’t on the list. But the Air Force restarted the selection process because of complaints that it hadn’t been transparent enough.
» More from the Orlando Sentinel.
Florida has a growing list of restaurants catering to whiskey lovers
Yes, I can show you the way to the next whiskey bar. But it’s not the dive that Jim Morrison and Bertolt Brecht mooned about in the last century. No, the whiskey bar of 2020 is a thoroughly modern gastrobar that has no shame, only pride in the liquor of the moment. Whiskey is to be worshiped and savored, not sloshed and wallowed in.
» Read more from Florida Trend.
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